Taming the telephone
I am grateful that we live in the modern technological age. Growing up in East Tennessee, I had first-hand experience with outhouses, homes without air conditioning, telephone party lines, dirt and gravel roads, three channels on the black and white TV, and putting clothes outside on the line to dry. I agree with Carly Simon who once sang, “These are the good old days.”
One of the marvels of the time is the cell phone. There was a time when one had a phone at the home or office and that was pretty much it. If someone needed to be contacted in an emergency, that’s what pagers were for. If the pagers went off, one found a pay phone somewhere. It was all very inconvenient.
Then came mobile phones, which were about the size of a small suitcase. Finally, small and portable cell phones arrived, which meant that one was always available and never out of touch. Over time, the cell phone became indispensable and, later, morphed into a monster demanding attention 24 hours a day.
This is where I find myself. The little black Droid in my pocket sounds off with frequent regularity, demanding that I stop what I am doing and turn my entire attention to its demands to be answered.
It is with me in meetings, at the movies, in church, in the car, just outside the shower for easy access, and by the nightstand near my head when I sleep.
Even on vacations, the phone is present and ready to intrude. Even when it is silent, it mocks me, saying, “Go ahead and try to relax for a minute — I will jar you back to reality when you have your guard down and are the least prepared.”
I have decided that it is time to take back at least a small part of my life. In the five months I have been riding a motorcycle, I have almost been run over four times (three times by a woman, once by a man). Twice, the driver was on a cell phone (a woman both times).
A study by two researchers at the University of Utah found that people who use cells phones while driving, whether “hands free” or not, were just as impaired as a drunk driver.
The conclusion? If you drive and talk on a cell phone, you are just as stupid as someone who drinks and drives. Therefore, in my bid to tame the telephone, I have decided I will cease answering or talking on the phone while I am driving. Especially when I am on the Harley.
I have also noticed that a good number of people call me and do not leave a message. Yet, because I am a slave to the monster in my pocket, I regularly call these numbers back and say, “I saw that you called.”
I have concluded that, if someone doesn’t take time to leave a message, their call must not be important: therefore, I will no longer call numbers back when the caller leaves no message.
Here are other times when I will no longer answer the phone: (1) when I am in a meeting or counseling session with someone, (2) in church or attending an important meeting, (3) when I am preparing a sermon or praying (What? I’m supposed to say, “Um, God, could you hold on while I answer this call?”), (4) when I am on a date with my wife, and (5) when I am engaged in an activity that requires my full attention.
I will, however, return all calls as soon as I can, keep the phone on all night long in the event of an emergency, take it with me on vacations, subject to the limitations above, and answer it at all other times, which will be most of the time.
I do love the new technologies. Sometimes, however, they become all-consuming monsters and just need to be tamed a bit.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]